Glove making for Mine Sweepers

A teacher faced the loss of her brother, while a Sonning school got its boys to do leatherwork for the Navy.

Newbury St Nicolas CE (Boys) School
19th October 1917

Miss Kemp excused to-day, her brother killed at front.

Sonning Boys school
19th October 1917
Started glove making for Mine Sweepers in Upper Group. This work will be taken instead of gardening during the winter months.

Newbury St Nicolas CE (Boys) School log book (90/SCH/5/3, p.38); Sonning Boys school log book (89/SCH/1/2, p. 53)

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Letters from sailors

Florence Vansittart Neale was encouraged by a British success.

8 October 1917

Went to schools to read letters to school children from sailors. Drenching afternoon. Soldiers came…

Battle of Broodseinde – very good.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

The War has brought home to us our dependence on our daily food in a way unknown to most of us before

The vicar of Maidenhead All Saints reminded his flock about the work of merchant seamen bringing food to the country, and of church workers comforting the troops close behind the lines.

The Vicar’s Letter

Dear Friends and Parishioners,-…

St Peter’s Harvest Festival is to be held at the end of this month (September 30th)… And this Harvest we have, indeed, much for which to be thankful. The War has brought home to us our dependence on our daily food in a way unknown to most of us before. We have to thank God for the labours of our farm workers and allotment holders, who, in the face of an inclement Spring, have greatly increased our food supply; for the valour of our Navy, that has convoyed our store ships past many perils; for the steadfastness and courage of our Merchant Sailors, who, risking often sudden death or lingering suffering, have yet dared to go on faithfully bringing grain and meat and other things for the maintenance of our people.

Lastly; sometimes people ask me for the name of some Charity to which they may give a donation, outside the Parish. Just now few deserve more support than the Church Army Recreation Hut Fund. There are over 800 in full work. All are under the auspices of the Church, and special provision is made for those who wish for a quiet place for prayer or study. They are, also, available and used for Church Services. I feel thy deserve great support, for, excellent as the work of the Y.M.C.A. usually is, these Church Army Huts make a still greater claim on our generosity as Church people; that our men should not feel that the Church has in any way neglected them. Any donations should be sent to the Secretary, Church Army Headquarters, 55, Bryanston Street, Marble Arch, London, W.1.

I remain, Your faithful friend and Vicar
C.E.M. FRY

Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, September 1917 (D/P181/28A/26)

Safe in Sweden after escaping

Florence Vansittart Neale was thrilled to hear that her nephew Paul Eddis, who had been interned in Denmark with his submarine crew, had managed to escape!

22 September 1917

Exciting news about Paul’s escape. Safe at Gothenberg!!

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Lemonade crystals for the troops

Ascot soldiers and sailors received regular parcels from home. The contents included concentrate to make a fizzy lemon drink.

ASCOT SAILORS’ AND SOLDIERS’ COMMITTEE.

The object of this Committee is to keep in touch with every Ascot man who is serving his Country abroad, and to show appreciation of what he is doing. Correspondence is kept up with the men and parcels are sent out periodically.

Recently, parcels have been sent out to 101 men, namely:

10 in the Navy, consisting of book, pipe and socks. 63 in the B.E.F., consisting of matches, candle, bootlaces, towel, lemonade crystals, soap, pipe, and 1/4lb. of tobacco.

28 in the M.E.F. and India, consisting of lemonade crystals, socks, pipe, 1/4lb. of tobacco and tinder.

In sending these the Committee have found a number of changes of address, and several additions to the number of men serving. In future, in order to avoid disappointment, it is important that any changes should be at once notified to any member of the Committee or to Mr. W.H. Tottie.

Ascot section of Winkfield District Magazine, September 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/9)

The Russians are giving in

Florence Vansittart Neale was depressed by the war news, both at home and abroad – and concerned about new food restrictions on sugar.

3 September 1917

Raids at Chatham & Sheerness – 107 sailors killed…

Mr Austman still here. All down about Riga gone. Russians giving in.

Wrote for sugar for jam!

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Meanwhile the Sub-Warden of Clewer House of Mercy was heading to France as an army chaplain.

3 September 1917

The Sub-Warden returned from Strensall Camp on short leave before reporting himself at the War Office previously to going to France.

Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

The whole gamut of human emotion

The emotional toll of supporting loved ones at the front was beginning to tell in Maidenhead. One imagines the tears in church – but every now and then there was joy amidst the sorrow.

OUR ROLL OF HONOUR

The Minister has not for some time past read from the pulpit the list of our soldiers, because the strain upon the feelings of the more closely related friends was too great. This month there is space to spare in our columns, and we therefore print the list.

Five of our lads have fallen:

Harold Fisher …Royal Berks.
Duncan Wilson …A.S.C.
Robert Harris …8th Royal Berks.
Stephen Harris …3rd Royal Berks.
John Boyd …2nd Royal Berks.

Two have been discharged:

James Partlo …4th Royal Berks.
E.S. Mynett …Recruiting Sergeant

Forty-nine are still in the Army:

Cyril Hews …Royal Engineers
F.W. Harmer …Royal Berks.
W. Percy Pigg …A.S.C.
Cyril Laker …K.O. Scottish Borderers.
Reginald Hill …2nd Royal Berks.
Robert Anderson …4th Royal Berks.
John Bolton …23rd London.
Thomas Mulford …Royal Engineers.
J.O. Wright …8th Royal Berks.
George E. Dovey …9th Royal Berks.
Percy Lewis …R.A.M.C.
Arthur Rolfe …R.F.A.
Ernest Bristow …R.A.M.C.
Harold Islip …R.E.
Edward Howard …A.S.C.
George Belcher …R.E.
Horace Gibbons …11th Aus. Light Horse.
J. Quincey …A.S.C.
Donovan Wilson …A.S.C.
Aubrey Cole …A.S.C.
W.H. Clark …A.S.C.
Cecil Meade …A.S.C.
Benjamin Gibbons …6th Royal Berks.
David Dalgliesh …R.F.C.
Hugh Lewis …R.E.
H. Partlo …A.S.C.
Herbert Brand …8th Royal Berks.
George Phillips …A.S.C.
J Herbert Plum …R.E.
Wilfred Collins …Canadian Dragoons.
Alex. Edwards …R.F.A.
William Norcutt …A.S.C.
George Norcutt …R.E.
Victor Anderson …R.A.M.C.
Herbert G. Wood …R.E.
C.A.S. Vardy …R.E.
A. Lane …R.E.
Frank Pigg …R.F.C.
Leonard Beel …R.E.
P.S. Eastman …R.N.A.S.
A. John Fraser …A.S.C.
Charles Catliff …R.E.
Ernest A. Mead …7th Devonshires.
Robert Bolton …R.M.L.I
Frank Tomlinson …R.E.
George Ayres …L.E.E.
Thomas Russell …A.S.C.
G.C. Frampton …A.S.C.
W.J. Baldwin …Royal Navy.

In addition there are many who have passed through our Sunday School and Institute, but have not recently been in close connection with us. These also we bear upon our hearts, and bring in prayer before the Throne of Grace.

OUR SOLDIERS.

We are glad to be able to say that Reginald Hill is still going forward, and that he is able to walk a little with the aid of sticks. He has now been at the Sheffield Hospital between five and six months. His parents are spending their holiday at Sheffield.

Robert Bolton has gone over with his Company to France.

Wilfred Collins is in Hospital at Sulhamstead, still suffering from heart trouble.

Sidney Eastman is at Mudros, doing clerical work.

David Dalgliesh has been home on leave, in the best of health and spirits.

GOOD NEWS!

In our last number we spoke of the fact that the son of Mr. Jones, of Marlow, was “missing,” and that all hope that he was still living had been relinquished. But the unexpected has happened, and news has been received that Second-Lieutenant Edgar Jones is an unwounded prisoner in the hands of the Germans. His parents have surely run through the whole gamut of human emotion during these weeks.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, September 1917 (D/N33/12/1/5)

The prospect of a long term of service

An Earley Boy Scout joined the Navy as a writer, a sailor who dealt with administration and finances on board ship. He would have been classed as a non-commissioned officer.

W G Dobson, patrol leader of the scouts’ troop, has been called up, and has successfully qualified as writer in His Majesty’s Navy. This means the prospect of a long term of service, and not for the war only.

Earley St Nicolas parish magazine (D/P192/28A/14)

Killed in HMS Vanguard

An Earley man went down with HMS Vanguard, which exploded at Scapa Flow. It remains one of the worst accidental disasters to befall the Royal Navy.

LIST OF MEN SERVING IN HIS MAJESTY’S FORCES

The following additional names have been added to our prayer list: Howard Bull, Russell Harmer, Leonard Tovey.

In addition to those already mentioned we especially commend the following to your prayers:

SICK OR WOUNDED: Leonard Brown, Gilbert Adams, Frank Hayward.
DIED OF WOUNDS: Robert Newton, William Murphy.
KILLED IN HMS “VANGUARD”: James Hall.

Earley St Peter parish magazine, August 1917 (D/P191/28A/24)

The “Scroungers’ Retreat”

Percy Spencer wrote to sister Florence to tell her about his experiences in officer training. His fellow trainees were mainly NCOs with experience of the worst of the war, and were not easily corraled by their superiors.

Attd C Company
58th TRB
Sergeants Mess
No 9 Camp
Kinmel Park
Rhyl

July 26, 1917
My dear WF

I’m very fit indeed, working very hard and always hungry. We are exceptionally well fed, I think, and conditions are good.

It’s very difficult to write as several of the boys are telling their experiences, and every now and then they touch ground I know and I have to join in. One man has just been minutely describing the bundling and labelling of corpses for the fat factory as seen by him, and another the manacling of maritime gunners to their guns, also as seen by him. Both descriptions are so minute and definite as to be convincing. I’ve only to meet someone who has actually seen a corpse factory and I shall be a confirmed Kadaverite.

The battle of wits – the staff v. us continues with varying success. The routine is changed daily to put us off our stroke and get ahead of us, but the same crowd who lay themselves out to “dodge the column” successfully carry on just as usual, appearing on parade, answering the roll call and vanishing into the blue before any work is done with consistent ability. This rather large section of our number have a discipline of their own. Backsliders are dealt with by courtmartial. Absence from the “Scroungers Retreat” (a quiet marquee in the neighbourhood) seems to be the most seriously looked upon offence, and is dealt with very harshly, the punishment being I believe to attend next parade and answer for all the others from their hut who are not there.

Of course, being out of training, I find the work very hard indeed, quite apart from my ignorance of it which is another difficulty with me, but I can feel myself growing straighter and stronger every day and look forward to being a Samson soon.

By the way I’ve had 2 days trench digging. It’s extraordinary how difficult such a menial job as digging earth and throwing it out of the trench is. An experienced man will throw his shovel of earth intact 10-20 feet away in any direction. The novice finds it difficult to throw and direct and very hard to keep together.

I can see I shall very soon be nailed down to drill and books – that is, as soon as I get to a cadet unit. Until then I’m not taking this business too seriously, and simply concentrate upon breaking myself in physically. You’d scacrcely credit how absurdly soft my hands and feet were. They are hardening up rapidly, but I’m still a pretty blistered object.

Well my dear girl, I feel this is a very uninteresting letter, but conditions are very trying for letter writing so you’ll have to please excuse it.

With my dear love to you both
Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/6/53-57)

Loss of a dreadnought

Florence Vansittart Neale may be referring to the sinking of the dreadnought-class ship HMS Vanguard on 9 July 1917 at Scapa Flow. It was a catastrophic loss of life.

14 July 1917

Heard loss of “Dreadnought”.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Several wounded since the late terrible fighting

There was worrying news for families in Mortimer West End.

West End

News of our Sailors and Soldiers

It was with deep regret that we heard of the death of Thomas Henry Dicker. He had recently been transferred to the Lincolnshire Yeomanry and was on the “Arcadian” when it was torpedoed and, unhappily, was amongst those lost. We offer our heartfelt sympathy to Mr. and Mrs. Dicker on the loss of their eldest son.

News has been received of several wounded since the late terrible fighting. James Bailey writes cheerily of his wounds and it is good to hear that Arthur Penny’s are notified as slight while Gilbert Cowdry, at the time of writing, has gone to a convalescent home. Mr. Harry Trelawny, after having slight concussion of the brain, went into the line again but is once more in hospital, suffering from shell-shock.

Charles Murrell, R.N., has been home on leave and Alfred Cowdry has joined the Royal Navy.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, June 1917 (D/P120/28A/14)

Do the German hear our starlight singing in their distant trenches?

There was much news of soldiers from Maidenhead Congregational Church.

OUR SOLDIERS.

We are glad to be able to report that Reginald Hill is so far improving, that he has been able to sit up a little each day. Thomas S. Russell has been called up, and is in training with the Motor Transport Section of the A.S.C. G.C. Frampton after about two hours drill was considered advanced enough for foreign service, and left England for France on May 18th. He is gone into Military Canteen work.

An interesting letter has come to hand from Sidney Eastman, which may justly be described as lengthy, for it is written upon a piece of paper some seven or eight feet long, and covers both sides. It is mostly occupied with a description of his travels and of the sights he has seen, and we are glad to gather that he is in good health and spirits.

G.C. Frampton has been unpatriotic enough to take German measles, and is in Hospital at Etaples. We hope to learn very shortly that he is quite well again.

Alfred Vardy, after a severe bout of pneumonia, caught on his way to the Front in France, is now at a Convalescent Camp in Thetford, gaining strength before returning to duty.

Wilfrid Collins is in hospital at Reading, suffering from heart weakness following upon a severe attack of “Trench fever.”

Reginald Hill has been out of bed for an hour, and is going on satisfactorily, though slowly.

Cyril Hews had a somewhat narrow escape recently. He was out with his motor-bicycle upon a French road during a thunderstorm, when the lightning struck a tree by the road-side, and a large branch fell upon the handlebars of the machine, providentially leaving the rider untouched.

Alfred Lane, after more than a year’s training in the Home Counties’ Engineers at Maidenhead, has been sent over with a draft to France.

Harry Baldwin, having attained the age of 18, and being called up, has elected to enter the Navy, and will probably enter a Training School.

One of our young men, who took an active part in the Messines victory, writes:

“Rather a good sight yesterday. I attended with my men a very large open-air drum-head Church Parade Service, as a sort of Thanksgiving Service for our recent great victory. A large number of Welshmen were present, and it really was great to hear these fellows sing “Aberystwith” and “St. Mary,” accompanied by a band.”

The papers, by the way, have been recently telling us that in all the Welsh regiments there are “glee parties,” who sing under the stars, until the Germans must hear and perhaps wonder, in their more or less distant trenches.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, June 1917 (D/N33/12/1/5)

German destroyers sunk

Florence Vansittart Neale was pleased with the latest news from the Navy.

5 June 1917
Two German destroyers sunk.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Hard fighting in France

Florence Vansittart Neale was cheered by the latest from the Front.

18 May 1917

Bullecourt finally taken by us after hard fighting – attacks [illegible] since May 5.

French say we have sunk 23 submarines between May 1-5.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)